Morocco with Mighty and Pips.

Unfortunately this summer we didn’t have the chance to do a trip on the bikes so instead with winter coming we decided to dig out our backpacks and go on a mini adventure to Morocco.  We headed to Gibraltar and then on to Spain and Tarifa to catch the ferry to Tangier.

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Off we go! La Linea de la Concepcion. The first town across the border with Gibraltar.

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Holiday time! Waiting for the bus to Tarifa.

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Calm sea and rainbows as we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar. Luckily when we arrived in Tarifa there was a ferry waiting to leave so a quick sprint through the terminal and we were on our way to Africa!

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The ferry arrived in Tangier ville port and within a few minutes you find yourself walking up through the medina towards the Petit Socco.

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It took us a while to find a place to stay, but in the end we found a lovely little guest house just in time to enjoy the sunset from our roof top…

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and a walk through the medina to the Grand Socco.

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Up early and on the hunt for breakfast…

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And our favourite find, a pancake like flat bread covered in nutella, folded and cut in slices!

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Followed by mint tea at Cafe Tingis as the town wakes up.  As we would be coming back to Tangier at the end of the trip we decided to head to the bus station and catch a bus to Chefchaouen.

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A blue bus on the way to the blue city!

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Blue streets of Chefchaouen.

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We had come to Chefchaouen when Mia was much younger and had remembered it as peaceful little town, and we were looking forward to coming back. It is still lovely to wander around the old town but it is now very much on the tourist trail. A big difference from that town that had once banned entry to all Christians and before 1920 had only been visited by 3 westerners!

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Blue walls full of souvenirs! The girls were in shopping heaven!

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And cat heaven.

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more cats!

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Although it was busy here it was still a pleasure to wander amongst the traffic free streets.

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A walk up to the Spanish mosque is rewarded with an amazing view of the town.

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Chefchaueon.

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The Kasbah.

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Snack stop after a day exploring!

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In disguise!

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Where’s Mia?!

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Narrow streets of the old town.

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After a couple of lovely days here we had an early start to catch the bus to Fes.

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A quiet and misty morning…

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then the sun came out!

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Back on the bus, 4 1/2 hours but luckily drama free. Most of the time was spent counting points for donkey spotting and storks nests…

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extra points for storks!

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Fes, an overload on the senses! The oldest of Morrocco’s imperial capitals, in parts it feels as if it is suspended in time. Narrow lanes ( we were told there are over 900 streets) like a giant maze, full of  bustle, odours, sights and sounds..

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the only traffic you have to jump out of the way of!

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Covered markets full of all sorts of delights from olives to…

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slippers…

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and sweet treats..

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to herbal delights…

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and of course the odd camel head!

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The still working leather tanneries are incredible too, barely changed from medieval times.

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Amongst the madness is calm in the truly beautiful Medersa Bou Inania.

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This medersa was built between 1351 and 1357, the last and grandest built by a Merenid sultan. Sultan Adou Inan who was noted for having 325 sons in ten years, deposing his father and committing unusually atrocious murders!  He was advised by the religious leaders to build his medersa on the city’s rubbish dump for redemption of his sins.

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When looking up a place to stay in Fes I came across an organisation that arranged homestays with families in the city, I though this would be a perfect chance to get to show the girls what life was like in a moroccan household. However it was not quite as we imagined it was indeed an old family home but it felt like the family had long gone, the house was beautiful but crumbling, and the welcome was far less friendly then we received everyday on the streets. This bed was definitely the high light, unfortunately we were not sleeping in this one, the one we were given had dead cockroaches under the pillows! So after a not so restful night we bid our goodbyes and headed for Meknes!

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Where we had much better luck finding a beautiful very friendly guest house.

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We had a lovely couple of days here, it has a relaxed party like atmosphere. Every evening the square if filled with stalls, entertainers, medicine men and snake charmers….

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and for the girls a dream come true…..

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a ride around the town in a princess carriage!!

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The beautiful Bab Mansour with modern life flowing past it!

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Meknes comes alive at night.

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From Meknes we took a day trip out to the holy town of Moulay Idriss

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The girls managed to hitch a lift up the 150 steps to the top of town!

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Close to Moulay Idriss are the Roman ruins of Volubilis. It was the Roman Empire’s most remote and far flung base and represented the end of the imperial road. Roman rule here only lasted for two centuries, with the Berber tribes hard to conquer. The garrison withdrew in 285 AD. IN later years marble from here was then taken to bulid Moulay Ismail’s Meknes 25km south.

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Volubilis

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The ruins with the Zerhoune mountains in the distance.

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The ruins are impressive but it was sad to find out that Volubilis along with wheat and olives grown in the fertile land here was a chief source of lions for the famous Roman games. Huge numbers of wild animals were taken to Rome and within just two hundred years along with Barbary bears and elephants the lions were pretty much wiped out!

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Picnic time!

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Sightseeing!

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Meknes medina hunting for souvenirs.

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Checking out the flower shops….

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And enjoying the lovely fresh fruit.

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All quiet in the morning when it’s time to leave.

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Aboard the train bound for Rabat.

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 Rabat is an easy place to spend a few days. Big wide streets….

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beautiful green parks…

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and the seaside!

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And of course the cakes….

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and ice creams!

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High ceilings!

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and spiral staircases.

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Alongside the wide streets and modern cafes Rabat’s old town is still full of surprises, busy markets and shops full of treasures.

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Pippi was desperate to take these home!!

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and the cats!

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Mint tea and cards in the Kasbah des Oudaias.

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The ruins of the Hassan mosque and tower. In 1195 this was designed to be the largest mosque and tallest minaret in the Islamic world. Commissioned by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al Mansur, but after his death in 1199 it was never completed.

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It was nearly time for us to head back up to Tangier but one more stop on the way. Waiting for a delayed train to Souk el Arba. Then onto the small costal town of Moulay Bousselham.

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Moulay Bousselham. A sleepy out of season holiday town.

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The most excitement was the taxi service!

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Evening entertainment.

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Sisters.

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Back in Tangier for a few last days of holiday. Making Pippi a new pair of “pointy elf shoes!”

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A much promised camel ride!

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A rare family photo, with all the perfect conditions, sunshine in the eyes, wind in your face and a camel stuck between you!

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Gazing across at Spain from the ledgendary Cafe Hafa which has been serving mint tea since 1921!

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Messing around in the medina!

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Hide and seek!

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These two really made the holiday…..

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although I have never known anyone knock over as many drinks as Pippi!!

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Mighty…

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and Pips

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Holidays…

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…and time to head home!

 

 

 

 

 

5 Countries, 500 miles with 3 generations of Team Davies

Once again Team Davies have dusted off the touring bikes and on the road again, a little older and wiser, well supposedly so, but this didn’t prevent the first hiccup of the trip. We had decided to spend three weeks of the summer holidays travelling from Dunkirk into Belgium and possibly heading down to Luxembourg. We planned to catch the ferry from Dover, unfortunately a short stop at the service station just before Dover turned into a mini disaster! The height restriction barrier went totally unnoticed as we looked for a space resulting in all the bikes, roof rack and roof bars being removed from the top of the car!! We couldn’t believe it! What a start to the trip, a pile of crumpled bikes in a service station with no way to attach them back on the car. But sometimes luck shows up in a funny way, ours was a taxi van driver. Having finished his shift he was just stopping for a coffee but kindly took our bikes to the ferry! We had missed our original ferry but luckily we were able to use our tickets for the next one!

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Unbelievably on the ferry! Russ’ and my bikes luckily had only suffered a few dents but Grampy Malc’s was not looking so good, a broken handle bar and buckled back wheel.

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Pondering what to do with the bike! In the end due to public holidays and closed bike shops we temporarily fixed the handle bar with a few hazel sticks and duck tape and the buckled wheel wobbled its way into Belgium! Unbelievable the bike stayed like this for the rest of the trip.

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Impressed by the graffiti!

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Belgium! At last on our way and on our first of many canal paths. The cycle paths in Belgium are brilliant, at first it felt like there was almost too many. We couldn’t work out which one we were meant to be on and the numbers were always changing, then we realised that the junctions are numbered not the routes. In fact it is a giant dot to dot across the whole country, you just cycle from one point to the next!

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Taking over the town square of Veurne, which lived up to its reputation of being one of the prettiest towns and most persevered squares in Belgium.

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Canal bike!

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What a difference a year makes, Mia was so much more confident on her bike, last year she took a bit of persuading to ride on her own this year she was constantly asking too.

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The all important  rewards, and a good chance for Pippi to burn off her energy!

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Pippi Willow.

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Powerful Beach art, part of the Beaufort Sculpture park spanning the Belgium coast. This piece by Kader Attia, Holy Land, symbolise the struggle of refugees trying to reach a better place and the promise of a better life but sadly so many losing their lives at sea.

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A windy coast but luckily a tail wind for us!

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Beautiful Bruges, very touristy but you can see why, Ornate buildings…

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cobbled streets..

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canals…

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chocolates…

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 and windmills.

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We had a really good time, whizzing along the streets and cycle paths until..

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More sculptures. A huge whale highlighting the pollution of our oceans…

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Made completely of plastic waste!

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We took the canal paths all the way from Bruges to Ghent, perfect for family cycling through a mixture of lovely countryside and…

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…also along the more industrial side.

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Ghent.

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Werregarenstraatje or Graffiti Alley!

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Along with great cycle paths it’s easy to find a place to park your bike in Belgium especially in these underground bike parks. Free and with air to pump up your tyres!

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Camplife. Although we had a few mishaps the weather was definitely on our side with only one day of rain!

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Tent life!

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Antwerp.

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and the biggest belgium waffle!

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Back onto the canals this time the Albert canal, probably our least favourite one, impressive in its size but relatively boring to cycle along and we soon learnt the meaning of  ‘fietsen omleiding’  – diversion for bikes! With lots of detours from the cycle path where the path was being dug up or bridges repaired. Making a long day even longer!

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Picnic spot on the Albert canal.

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and a bit of horse riding!

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The reward to a long day on the canal beautiful lakeside camping by Laambeek lake near Bolderberg.

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Last day on the Albert canal…

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and into Holland! Peaceful camping just outside of Maastricht. Although there are no physical borders to cross it is funny how you know you are in a different country, even going to the supermarket is fun finding different things!

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We weren’t in Holland for long before we crossed into Germany and onto Aachen the start of the Vennbahn. We had been told about this cycle track in a campsite, the Vennbahn an old railway first opened on the 30th of June 1885 to carry coal and it is now one of Europe’s longest converted bike trails. 125km starting in Germany through Belgium and into Luxembourg.

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It is a perfect cycle route for families, easy riding and lovely scenery.

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Perfect  picnic spots

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and the Ritz of bug hotels!

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Monschau, hidden in the hills of the North Eifel, a definite highlight just off of the Vennbahn and well worth the 3km climb back up to the cycle track!

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Picture postcard views of houses little changed in 300 years, with narrow streets leading away from the river and up to the castle which dates back to the 13th century.

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Lovely hiker biker camping by Monschau.

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Dam building!

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Team Davies!

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Heading towards St. Vith the trail leaves the forest and rolls through farm land and little villages.

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Luxembourg! Although we had left the peace and quiet of the Vennbahn the cycling in Luxembourg was great, smooth roads with lovely descents through the forests into little towns like…

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Esch-sur Sure.

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Lovely roads through the hills and forests..

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and alongside beautiful clear lakes.

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Luxembourg city. We ended up taking a day off the bikes and caught the train into the city.  It was well worth it, a beautiful capital city with its huge rock fortifications, churches, palaces and cathedral.

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Luxembourg City,

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“do I have to walk any further?” !

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We missed the sign on the way into Luxembourg but a chance for a picture on the way out!

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Originally when we looked at cycling to Luxembourg I thought we would mainly follow the Euro Velo 5 route in fact this was the only time we were on it and here we were just crossing over it!

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Not the most scenic of picnic spots the Belgium/Luxembourg border, but a rare picture of all of us! (photo credit Paul from New Zealand who we met with and his wife Jeanette along the Vennbahn )

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Holidays are hard work!! With ours nearly over we caught the train back up to northern Belgium, to Ypers and spent a couple of days cycling back to the coast to catch the ferry.

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The Menin gate. British war memorial, inscribed with 54,896 names of missing soldiers  it is hard to understand the huge loss of life during the 1st World War and seeing this certainly reminded us how lucky we are. Every evening at 8pm the Last Post is played under this huge archway and it is definitely moving to listen to.

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Sobering sights, one of so many cemeteries. Tyne Cot Cemetery 11,965 graves of which 8,369 are unnamed and a memorial wall engraved with a further 35 000 names of missing soldiers that could not fit on the Menin gate.

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We left Ypres in pouring rain but luckily not everyones spirits were dampened!

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The pirate has lost her ship!

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Sheltering!

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And back to the coast and luckily the sunshine.

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This little super star impressed us so much 532 miles, and when she wasn’t pedalling on her own she was helping to power me up the hills or chatting away and keeping me company! .

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This one was brilliant as well, although this will probably be her last trip in the trailer she still napped and sang and kept us entertained from her back seat!

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A bit of well deserved beach time…

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Beach huts..

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mermaids…

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and sunsets…

Once again the superstars that made the trip…

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Mia Molly…

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and Pippi Willow.

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Homeward bound! But we are already thinking of where next….

 

Cycle touring with Team Davies!

So finally after talking about it for five years we are off on our bikes again, but this time with Mia and Pippi in tow and Gampy (Russ’s Dad) couldn’t resist coming too! For our first trip with the girls we decided to choose an area and country we are familiar with and it was a good way to include a visit to my Mum, so France here we come!

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Bags packed, already for the ferry From Portsmouth to St Malo

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Holiday time!

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We took the night ferry across to St Malo the girls were really excited about sleeping on a boat, although not sure if Pippi could work it all out!

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As soon as we arrived we caught another boat, a short 15 minutes across to Dinard, a popular ferry for cyclists but we managed to squeeze the bikes on and it was nice to find out where other cyclists were heading.

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France is perfectly set up for cyclists. Brittany is full of different cycle routes, we were straight on to Route 2, a cycle path all along to Canal d’Ille et Rance, from St Malo to Rennes. It was easy riding with the girls as there was no worry of any traffic.

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First stop, the cobbled streets of Dinan.  A steep climb up through warrens of narrow streets (we left the bikes at the bottom!) leads to the main square, which is full of craft shops, galleries, cafes and tourists, but it is really pretty and well worth stopping!

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At the first campsite, there has to be some reward for cycling 35miles!

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Canal d’Ille et Rance

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The canal, although very peaceful and traffic free we did find often bypassed the villages and towns and we missed cycling through little french villages and finding ourselves by the boulangeries and tabac, so we ended up mixing the canal with routes on little roads which were relatively traffic free.

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Bedtime story!

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A bit of a wet start but Mia’s spirit wasn’t dampened….

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..especially with blackberries to keep us going. Before we left I was worried how Mia would be, but she really was amazing, uncomplaining just chatting and pedalling away as long as we kept her well fuelled with pain au chocolat and nougat!

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I had also worried how this little one would be for hours in a trailer. But she was great, Pippi really just spent her time singing or….

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…sleeping!

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Unfortunately unlike last time we didn’t have unlimited time, and we had promised my Mum a visit so we left the canal at Redon and caught the train to Nantes, the start of the cycle route along the Loire. Catching the train was not as easy as we thought, buying the tickets was no problem with all the bikes, we didn’t have to pay any extra, which we thought was great until the train arrived and it was too full for us to get on. We were told to wait for the next one 3 hours later! We then discovered that trailers are not even allowed on the trains! Luckily we had three hours to spare so packed the trailer right down and then discover the train standing empty on another platform was in fact the next one to Nantes! So it was possible to get us all on in the end but it does seem to be bit of a lottery whether or not you will.

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As we knew from before the Loire is cycling paradise especially with a young family, easy quiet roads, beautiful scenery, plenty of place to camps.

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Old fishing boats.

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Beaches of the Loire! The water seemed much lower than normal and although there are often beaches along the river they seemed so much bigger.

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 The Pirates of the Loire were happy!

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Picnic time.

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The cheeky one!

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Debating a swim!

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With the long summer evenings it was great for the girls who still had plenty of playtime after a day cycling!

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Mighty Mia the last one to sleep  every night…

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…and the last to wake up!

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Finally awake!

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The Loire is busy with cyclists but you can easily see why, and there are lots of side routes to take as well, through vine yards…..

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…over draw bridges…

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..and off the beaten track.

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And the Chateaux never cease to amaze.

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A steep climb but always worth it for a good view! The Loire at Saumur.

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The Chateau at Montsoreau.

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Cycling up through the troglodyte villages is like stepping back in time.

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For the girls it was like being in a fairytale, Castles, kings, queens, and little windows and doors carved into the cliff!

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Chasing dragons in Chinon…

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..and dressing up as princesses!

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 Chinon, a bit of a detour from the Loire on the banks of the Vienne  but really worth doing, with a lovely hiker/biker section in the campsite!

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The view from the top of the clock tower is amazing!

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Happy days.

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Breakfast time! we quickly got into the routine of touring life, and porridge and nuts for breakfast is always a good start!

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Cosy nights!

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And suddenly a lot more bedding when there is four of you!

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Really its not about the views but the food! Perfect summer supper for hungry cyclists!

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Sisters!

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The Chateau at Langeais.

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Exploring castles!

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Treehouse at Langeais.

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Unfortunately we cycled past the Chateau d’ Usse before opening time, but still a photo opportunity!

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We made it! A few days off at my Mums, which was lovely.

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Mad Scientists!

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Beautiful gardens at the Chateau du Clos Luce, definitely one of my favourite places to visit.

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Impressive trees at the Clos Luce and a nice memory of other cycle rides!

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Although Mia spent most of the time attached to my bike, she was happy to ride on her own while we stayed at my Mum’s and it has given her a lot more confidence about being on the road.

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I really found the Follow me Tandem a good way to cycle with Mia. Even on the off road parts it felt really stable and is so simple to connect and disconnect Mia’s bike. It is a bit heavy but Mia’s pedalling definitely kept us rolling along!

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With only three days left before our ferry home, we had planned to take the train to Rennes, but not wanting to risk the lottery of whether or not we could get our bikes on, my super star of a mum offered to drive our bikes while we took the train and we were back on the road north.

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To the Seaside! We took a lovely route along the coast roads back to St Malo.

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The most important thing to have in your panniers!

Camplife.

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Our trusty shelter! The Nallo 4 Gt really lived up to our expectations.

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Dancing in the street.

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Hot days, a moment of quiet in the busy Dol de Bretagne.

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Dol de Bretagne.

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Old windmills and big blue skies.

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The Pip Squeak in her trailer! Think all the castles has given her the idea of behaving like royalty!

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Trying to avoid the main road to the sea, a few fields…

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…and a dead end…

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…but we made it in the end! Cancale.

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It always feels nice to reach the sea.

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Misty morning ride into St Malo….

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and early morning on the beach.

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St Malo.

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Through the old town.

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Inside St Malo’s walled city.

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On the way to our last campsite.

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Then some well deserved time on the beach.

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Just a few stones to add to the weight!

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The impressive old town of St Malo.

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The superstars who made this trip…

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Mia Molly…

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…and Pippi Willow!

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Hometime, but we are already planning the next one!

 

 

Mushrooms, Moomins and Mustikka.

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Eleven Years ago we decided to stop in Finland on our way home overland from India to visit Irma who we had met in Ladakh, it turned out to be a good decision, we had a brilliant time, meeting a wonderful family and have always wanted to return, so finally we have had the chance and it was really special to take Mia and Pippi with us. Here are a few pictures of a lovely holiday.

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Mia instantly felt at home when she spotted the little house in the garden, which she was told she could play in whenever she like!!

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and Pippi was really impressed by the blueberries growing all around her, so much easier to get than blackberries!

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Off to pick blueberries…

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and eat blueberries!

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Perfect for porridge.

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Woodland pixies, think they probably ate more than they picked! Life in Finland feels so connected to the outdoors, summers seem to be spent by the lakes and in the forest.

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We didn’t have a clue what mushrooms we could eat and in a short walk we must have seen over 15 different sorts, the forest has a lovely smell of pine, moss and mushrooms. Luckily Irma knew what to eat and we had really delicious chanterelle and black trumpet mushrooms.

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On Holiday!

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Summer cottage at Lohjanjärvi. On our way here the road got smaller and smaller until it was just grass and ended in this very special place! We can’t thank Irma, Jryki and their friends and family for such amazing hospitality and kindness.

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Down to the lake.

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It didn’t take long before Pippi was in!

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Lohjanjärvi.

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and the best thing about swimming in the lakes in Finland, you can always have Sauna after!

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Watching Dad going off fishing!

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Playing in the woods.

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“mum you are going to love this it’s moss-tastic!”

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Fuel stop, before more playing, with no common language these two still managed to play happily for hours !

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a little musical interlude!

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Checking the traps. Only three little crayfish for lunch!

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Picnic stop in Tammisaari, a lovely coastal town of traditional wooden houses, and a brilliant play park so everyone was happy!

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Donkey rides….

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and a trip to Moomin house, Mia was in her element!

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We had a good day wandering round Helsinki, visited some great museums, the Haltia Finnish nature centre in Espoo was brilliant, but some of our best moments were just spending time with lovely people in lovely places!

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Evening treat…

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Pancakes on the fire!

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Day dreaming.

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Pip Willow!

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Mighty Mia!

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A lovely time with a big thank you to Irma, Jryki and their friends for making it so special. Hopefully we will be back soon.

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Not a great cycle trip or adventure to write a post about just a lovely family holiday and beautiful wedding so I felt like posting a few pictures! My brother has been asking and asking me to come out to Canada to visit and last year he said “please come because we are getting married!” We are very grateful to very generous parents who made it possible for us to enjoy this special occasion and a brilliant holiday.

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On our way a quick visit to London and the Natural History Museum.

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King Louis!

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Although Mia got a bit freaked out by all the stuffed animals especially the lion which she came face to face with! It is good place to waste time before a flight.

P1080117Hugh’s cottage by the lake, luckily they are not moving till after the wedding, a perfect wedding venue!

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P1070550All hands to the deck getting ready…

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…plenty of time to go for a paddle as well.

P1070442We stayed just north of Hugh’s house in this lovely airbnb place, in the Kawartha lakes region. On the banks of Pigeon lake and close to the little town of Bobcaygeon it was a perfect location.

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The dock at the bottom of the garden.

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a princess waiting for her daddy.

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Wedding day, tables all laid…

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and canoe filled with drink!

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I had a busy morning getting the flowers ready but really enjoyed doing it for such a special   occasion.

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Not in focus I know, but it was such a lovely atmosphere.

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The first dance with on looking bridesmaids!

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Early morning cuddle!

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Off to explore the lake

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And what a find, a perfect little beach complete with a big box full of buckets and spades.

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Most days involved a quick trip to the beach either in the canoe or kayaks or even the pedal boat.

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Busy building castles, moats and streams

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After a summer of heating the lake was lovely, so even Pippi braved a swim. Hard to believe in a few months it will be all frozen!

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Pip squeak!

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Mighty!

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Happy in the sand and sun.

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Helping with the canoe, this was by far one of the highlights for Mia, being able to just go out for a paddle,and it beats walking round to the beach.

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Finished at the beach and onto the bowling lanes!

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Ready steady roll! In celebration of Grandma’s birthday a brilliant evening.

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After the wedding we decided to take a little trip down to Toronto and Niagara. The falls were amazing, just the volume of water pouring down. More than six million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow, and almost four million cubic feet (110,000 m3) on average!

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My favourite bit of the falls…

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but I wasn’t tempted to climb over, of the 15 people who have dared to challenge the falls only ten made it alive.

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The not so beautiful side of Niagara!

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Driving into to city. We booked into a backpackers and really enjoyed wandering around Toronto for a couple of days.

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Dancing in the street.

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Blue blue skies and skyscrapers.

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We had some hard moments dragging a three-year old around the city but she loved running through the streets of skyscrapers, climbing over benches, blocks and sliding down rails (just like her Uncle)!!

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just hanging out in the park.

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Back at the lake, no northern lights but a lovely moon…

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and beautiful sunrises, the one good thing about early Pippi wake up calls!

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In our fancy hire car!

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More beach time! We did spend quite a bit of time in the towns as well, Bobcaygeon was really sweet with some great junk shops!

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Sisters

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Pigeon lake, hopefully we will be back, really enjoyed a lovely and special family time.

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Thank you Grandma and …

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Grandpa.

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Markets, Mosques and Marrakech!

After a lovely break from big cities we caught the bus back to Meknes, which for a big city has a really relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Normally we find we walk miles to avoid the hassle of arguing with taxi drivers! Meknes, however instantly feels welcoming as the taxi drivers are lovely and really helpful!! The souks are busy but hassle free so once again we were wandering though mountains of spices and sweets and into the maze!

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The smell of all the spices is amazing and much more pleasant then the meat sections of the market!

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During our trip was the build up to Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice. Families go to the markets to choose and buy a sheep, this caused much entertainment for Mia seeing sheep in cars, on buses and in wheelbarrows!

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Meknes Medina.

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Enough sightseeing, time for some Peppa pig on daddy’s i-pod!!

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Our next stop, the capital Rabat. Showing ted the views from the train. An easy 3 1\2 hour journey right into the centre of town.

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The Kasbah des Qudaias, the site of the original ribat and citadel of the Almohad, Merenid and Andalucian towns, it has a strange feeling of being in a village inside a capital city.

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 Rabat. More blue walls…

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And cobbled streets!

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Nice and shady in the Kasbah des Qudaias.

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Morocco is all colour and patterns everywhere you look. On doors..

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…on drinking fountains….

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..on cloth covering bread…

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..and the beautiful patterns in Arabic script.

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Hassan Mosque, Rabat. The Mosque was started in 1195 but never completed, the huge minaret can been seen in nearly every view in the city. Had it been comlpeted it would have been the second largest mosque of its time.

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Hassan Mosque.

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The Mohammed V Mausoleum.

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On holiday!

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After the narrow streets and covered markets of the imperial cities, Rabat felt open and spacious with its big wide avenues. We had only planned to spend one night, just to break up the 8 hour train ride to Marrakech, but we really enjoyed the city with its fantastic cafes and hassle free streets, so we spent an extra day and night and could have easily stayed longer!

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Potions of all kinds in a health shop.

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The spice grinder!

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Mint and other wonderful herbs and flowers.

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 As vegetarians the food in Moroccan can be quite repetitive, lots of veg tagine or veg and cous cous. But with lovely fresh fruit and delicious almond biscuits we didn’t have to resort to snails!!

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Waiting for the train, Sunday was not the best day to travel with fewer trains they were really busy, but after half an hour we got a seat. A hot five hours to Marrakech but with the help of other passengers Mia was kept amused and entertained!

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Marrakech here we come!

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 Marrakech, is an overload of the senses, sights smells and sounds. We found a room and after a long day time for some food. Waiting for our supper at one of the many stalls that fill the Djemaa el Fna in the evening.

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Another maze of a Medina, Marrakech was much busier with tourists than the other cities and as a result there was a bit more hassle, but Mia was a good distraction.

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Unfortunately not many people took any notice of these signs and where we had become used to wandering in traffic free zones we were now having to jump out of the way of scooters. With Mia that made it not so enjoyable.

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Escaping the medina, the beautiful and peaceful Majorelle Garden, created in the 1920s and 1930s by the French painter Jacques Marjorelle and later owned by the designer Yves Saint Laurent.

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 Moroccan colours. Posing in the gardens!

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View of the city from  El Badi the ruined palace of Ahmed el Mansour.

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Dancing with her shadow!

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Stocks nesting on the roof of El Badi Palace.

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Riding into the square, a princess in her carriage!! Definitley a high light of the holiday for Mia.

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Sitting in precious shade in the heat of the day!

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The Djemaa el Fna. This square was made a Unesco site in order to protect the tradition of a need for a place for people to gather and socialise,  a cultural space, for storytellers, musicians, snake charmers  and performers to express themselves. It really is a great place to be as the sun sets, the whole square comes alive.

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People watching in the Square.

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 Listening to the call for prayer from the Koutoubia Minaret, the oldest of the three great Almohad towers, (the others The Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda in Seville) completed around 1150AD.

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We have only explored a tiny bit of this great country, A really fun place to travel with a toddler, easy to get around and very friendly and welcoming people.

The labyrinth of Fez.

After a lovely breakfast of honey pancakes and mint tea, we wandered down to the bus station of Chefchaouen, knowing there was a CTM bus leaving at 1pm we got there early to buy a ticket, but as we arrived a rickety old bus was just leaving with the shouts of “Fez Fez Fez” so we hopped on and payed less than £2 for a four and a half hour journey. It turned out to be more like five and a half hours with the rickety old bus breaking down before we reached Fez but luckily with some space on a passing bus we reached Fez in daylight, which suddenly appeared after miles of dry sunburnt fields and tiny villages of mudbrick houses.

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Bab Boujeloud, Fez. The old Medina of Fes el Bali is walled by impressive ramparts and then these beautiful gated entrances, which lead to a town still lost in some distant time.

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The only traffic beyond the walls is horses, donkeys and pushcarts.

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The old town of Fes el Bali.

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We stayed in the heart of the Medina, so as soon as we walked out of the door we were straight into the market and into a barrage of sounds,  beautiful colours and not so wonderful smells!!!

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You can buy anything and everything in the market. Shops and stalls are full to the brim.

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mountains of olives….

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piles of dried fruit…..

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beads in every colour….

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and beautiful Fez pottery.

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In the heart of the medina you find the Tanneries, which you smell before you see, although vegetable dyes have largely been replaced by chemicals ,  pigeon dung is still used to treat the leather.

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Vats of dye and pigeon poo. Little has changed here since the sixteenth century, workers pass down their specific jobs from generation to generation, Hard work and with more chemicals being used high health risks.

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Fassi leather from these tanneries is some of the finest leather in the world and founded the city’s wealth from the tenth to nineteenth century.

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Racks of animal skins drying on the rooftops.

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Refreshment break!

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And maybe a donut or two!!

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The donut man! It was fascinating to see how fast he made them, and people would buy 5 or six and they would just be threaded onto a piece of twine and taken away.

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“Please can we take this donkey home?” Once again Mia was like a celebrity, showered in kisses, hugged by everyone from little old ladies to shopkeepers and children on their way home from school.

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Life in the Medina

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Still plenty of cats to chase!!

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 In the old town you find fancy shops of leather or carpets next to people selling a few bunches of mint, or cupfuls of grain.

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The real maze of the old town, the covered souk, once inside you lose all sense of direction!

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After a wrong turn, lost in the backstreets, a little disconcerting not having any idea where you are. But luckily there is always someone to point you in the right direction!

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Relaxing after a busy morning shopping! In the lovely Riad Hala. Where we spent two very peaceful nights, as soon as you enter into the courtyard the noise of the streets is gone and it’s like an oasis of calm!

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Playing Hide and Seek in the the Cafe Clock. Another good place when you need a break from the busy streets. With really delicious food on the menu!

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On the rooftop of the guest house, with five mosques a stones throw away, the call to prayer was incredible. In Mia’s words “that man up tower singing”!

We really enjoyed Fes, it is busy but without any cars it is easy to walk around, and you really do feel like you are lost in another world.

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The next stage of travel was by rail we were not sure what to expect but the train was great, it was simple to buy tickets for the next train and it was just a short ride, 40mins to Meknes. We were there by 10.30am so decided to head to a small town called Moulay Idriss. An important town for pilgrims, as the tomb of Morocco’s most revere saint lies here. A trip to Moulay Idriss is worth a fifth of the hajj to Mecca.

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Much to Mia’s delight donkeys are the main transporter of everything from building materials to livestock, she was picked up for a free ride!

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Moulay Idriss. Although the shrines here are restricted to Muslims only, and there is little for a tourist to visit, it was a really relaxing place to be and sit and people watch!

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This gentleman was so lovely he wanted Mia to ride on his donkey so it would be a lifelong memory of Morocco for her.

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From our rooftop. Until recently is was forbidden for non-Muslims to stay overnight in the town but as this ban has now been lifted we stayed in the very welcoming guest house La Colombe Blanche.

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Relaxing on the roof after a hard day of donkey rides!